As many of you know I am a huge and lifelong fan of the rock band Queen and Freddie Mercury. From the moment I was born Queen and especially Freddie was a huge part of my life, and they still are to this day. Queen and Freddie Mercury have been with me through so much, especially since I have been through so much abuse and trauma in my life, and they are the soundtrack to my life. So when the opportunity came up to see the exhibition of all of Freddie Mercury’s items at Sotheby’s in London, I just had to take it. It sounds silly but I knew if I did I would feel much closer to Freddie who was the love of my life (no pun intended on the song he wrote on the 1975 album “A Night at the Opera” that was for his then fiancée Mary Austen).
Not only was Freddie the most incredible singer, showman and performer he was also a huge collector of art, furniture and beautiful objects that he surrounded himself with in his home at Garden Lodge in Kensington, London. When he passed away at the young age of 45 on 24 November 1991 from pneumonia related to having AIDS, he left Garden Lodge and everything in it to Mary Austen, who was his constant companion and looked after him right up until he died.
Much of his collection remained at Garden Lodge untouched, even though Mary lived there since his death. Recently Mary came to a decision to auction Freddie’s items off. Proceeds from the auction which are projected to exceed $12.7 million, will be split between the Mercury Phoenix Trust that was set up by Queen and Jim Beach after Freddie’s death and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
So on Wednesday 30th August 2023 I arranged to go and see the exhibition while I still could at Sotheby’s and before everything was auctioned off with my friend Fiona Wickramasinghe.
Arriving at Sotheby’s
I met up with Fiona at 10.00am at Bond Street Tube Station and we made our way to Sotheby’s which was a short walk away. When we arrived a queue to get in was already starting to form, and it also turned out that unbeknown to us Sotheby’s didn’t open to the public until 11.00am. As we both have autism and ADHD, Fiona said we could find someone from Sotheby’s and ask for reasonable adjustments/early access as neither of us do well with crowds and noise.
Just the thought of doing this made me feel sick to my stomach, but Fiona was brilliant and sprang into action. She spoke to a Sotheby’s staff member who upon checking said we could go in, even though it was 10.10am. The staff member stayed with us while I checked my bag in, visited the facilities and showed us how to access the exhibition.
Going in without the crowds and extra noise made all the difference to both me and Fiona and meant we could enjoy it much more without so much sensory overload. I was in total awe of just how much there was to see, the exhibition of Freddie’s items went on and on, it felt like it was never ending. From the moment I walked in I felt much closer to Freddie, and I was able to get a bigger picture of his life.
From Freddie’s Clothes to Gold Discs to Art to Furniture…This Exhibition Had It All
A world-renowned rock superstar, away from the stage Freddie Mercury was a deeply educated collector. In this exhibition Sotheby’s reflects Freddie Mercury’s kaleidoscopic world of style and quality, spanning art, fashion, musical instruments, personal papers, possessions and photographs, furniture, and jewels, accrued over the course of fifty years.
His collection was meticulously preserved at his beloved home at Garden Lodge for over three decades and displays a quality and diversity of works that are a testament not only to his manifold passions, but innate style, accomplished artistry, and brilliant mind.
Freddie Mercury was a passionate collector throughout his life, from the pre-fame days, through his rock star journey, to his final weeks. There are distinct aspects of Freddie Mercury – a private man, a collector, an art lover and bon vivant. His love of life, art, friendship, music, cats, and joy was evident, as during his life, he worked to surround himself with beautiful objects, his beloved cats, and many cherished friends.
I loved seeing all of Freddie’s belongings up close and personal, and particularly enjoyed seeing his Japanese art collection, as well as collection of cat related items, gold discs and clothes. When I saw his collection of song lyrics, handwritten items and photos I became emotional and burst into floods of tears. My friend Fiona was on hand with tissues thank goodness, and although I’ve always felt sad about Freddie’s passing since it happened, there was a huge poignancy to the fact that Freddie had left us far too soon. If he had been diagnosed with AIDS today, thanks to innovation and drugs to treat it, he would have lived a normal and long life. I felt like he wasn’t ready to leave us when he did.
Who Wants To Live Forever – Freddie Does Through His Collection
One of Freddie’s most famous songs is “Who Wants To Live Forever” from the “A Kind of Magic” album in 1986, which also appeared as part of the soundtrack to the film “Highlander.” Through this collection, Freddie does live forever. I never expected to be so emotional at seeing all his items, but emotional I was, and I’ll never forget the experience.
And my highlights? There was so much I can’t even begin to decide, but if I had to pick, I would say seeing Freddie’s moustache comb (a Tiffany one, apparently), seeing all the handwritten items of song lyrics, party invitations and dinner party guest lists, his gold discs and collection of clothes. Sotheby’s did a great job of bringing Freddie to life once more, my friend Fiona and I were in there looking at everything for over 3 hours. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to see so many items that belonged to the love of my life, and to feel close to him through seeing them. It was an experience I will never, ever forget.
I took so many photos I had to add them to a Flickr account to accommodate them all. They can be seen here.
Altogether now…..ayyyyyy, ohhhhhh!!